A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

November 15, 2013

Farewell to a Faithful Guardian

A sad part of raising alpacas and llamas is that at some time in their life we have to let them go.   As some of our herd ages this is a situation we will no doubt be encountering more often.  It’s tough, but unavoidable.

This morning our guard llama Griffin passed away.  At 13 years old Griffin was middle aged in llama terms, some llamas live well into their twenties but in Griffin’s case that was not to be.

We acquired Griffin through Southwest Llama Rescue along with our other two llamas Maya and Inca.  Griffin’s registered name was Twilight’s Griffin Girl, her fleece was a beautiful rose grey.  Griffin was always more aloof than Maya and Inca, she was a strong and proud girl and took her job of guarding the herd seriously unless someone started putting out hay and then she was quite easily distracted!  Griffin loved to find a higher piece of ground to stand on so she could survey her “kingdom”.  She also loved a really good roll in the dirt, and a nice “shower” with the hose during the hot days of summer.  When we used to hose her legs Griffin would start a dance, spinning and twisting as she enjoyed the cool water on her skin.  You had to make sure to stay out of her way unless you wanted to be showered from mud flinging up from under Griffins feet!

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Griffin looking proud after shearing

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Griffin gets up close and personal

From her records we knew that Griffin had once had a cria, but sadly he did not live long.  When crias were born on our farm Griffin would often nuzzle them and follow them around, and it was on more than one occasion that Griffin joined in the evening cria pronk.  It was so funny to see the little alpaca crias pronking around accompanied by a pretty hefty llama!

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Griffin checks out one of our crias Kaneka

We had known something was not right with Griffin since July.  While I was away visiting family in England Ric called me to tell me Griffin was not eating.  I was due to return a couple of days later and by that time Ric had managed to get Griffin eating again but something was not right with our girl.  We consulted our vet and he felt that Griffin might have congestive heart failure and warned us that it would only be a matter of time before we had to say goodbye to her.

Amazingly Griffin perked up and seemed to be doing better, she was back to eating again and eagerly staking her claim on the morning and evening hay as she loved to do.  The alpacas all knew not to mess with Griffin at feeding time.  We were optimistic.  Perhaps the vet’s diagnosis was wrong.  Griffin seemed good and we were happy to see her looking like her usual self.  But then we noticed that once again Griffin was not right.  She seemed to be losing muscle in her rear end, she stood awkwardly and getting up and down seemed more difficult for her than normal.  We again consulted our vet.  When he examined her he said that her heart sounded good and that the symptoms she had displayed earlier in the summer were all gone, but he was a little baffled as to what was causing Griffin’s discomfort and muscle wasting.  Tests were done to see if perhaps there was a neurological problem or perhaps an issue with Griffin’s spine, blood tests were run to see if there was anything abnormal, but nothing showed up in any of the tests to give us a clue.

We tried various treatments from probiotics to antibiotics, we treated for parasites and ear ticks, we put Griffin on some arthritis medicine in case that was the problem.  I used my photonic red light on her and gave her gentle massages.  Griffin would respond for a while and start eating again and then stop eating and start to lose muscle again.  Neither our vet nor we could come up with any clues to help us figure out what on earth was plaguing Griffin.

Last week Griffin again went off her feed.  We managed to get her eating again, but within a couple of days she would not eat anything we offered to her.  Ric and I were both very concerned about Griffin and what we should do for her.

Last night when I did chores I walked Griffin over to the pen where she liked to eat.  As I walked behind her I noticed she was tripping over even the smallest of rocks in the pasture, she just didn’t look good.  I offered her food and stroked her neck.  I talked to her and told her that if she felt it was time to leave us then I understood.  I told her how much we loved her and what a great job she had done for us guarding the herd.  I told her we would miss her but that we would be okay.

This morning when I got up I looked for Griffin and found her standing by the fence in front of the house.  The nights have been cold recently and Griffin had been spending them in the big blue shelter at the other side of the pasture, staying in there until the hay was put out.  But this morning she had already made her way across the pasture.  I watched Griffin walk around a little and then cush down.

When our helper Leigh Ann arrived I asked her to keep an eye on Griffin and told her that I was very worried about her.  Not too long after Leigh Ann went out to feed the alpacas she came back in and told me that I needed to come to Griffin.  Leigh Ann had seen Griffin’s legs suddenly thrash and Griffin had gone onto her side.

Leigh Ann and I went out and I when I looked at Griffin I knew her time to leave us had come.  Griffin was still conscious.  I put a blanket and a towel under her head and sat with her, stroking her and talking to her until she took her last breath.  Leigh Ann stayed with Griffin and me too, giving us both comfort during a difficult time.

Maya, Inca and Griffin

Maya, Inca and Griffin, the three girls always worked as a team

Our Griffin will be buried in one of the grass pastures that the alpacas and llamas like to visit when we let them out for a day of grazing.  From that point you can see all three alpaca pastures and the hay barn so Griffin can continue to guard over us night and day.  I would like to think that she now has been reunited with her cria and is pronking around with him free of pain and full of joy.

To our faithful guardian Griffin, farewell dear one, you served us well and gave us many years of joy.  We will miss you.  May you now rest in peace.

Rosemary

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October 23, 2013

And Then She Walked ….

It’s been a while since I have been able to find the time to write.  I know many are anxious to hear how our Pearl is doing and I am happy to tell you the news is good.

As Pearl has been getting stronger Ric and I have been going out several times during the day and getting her into a standing position.  Initially she wasn’t able to bear any weight on her legs, but as the days progressed she started to be able to put weight on first her back legs and then her front legs.   Soon Pearl was at a point where she could balance on her own for a few seconds.  At times we would catch her trying to push herself up, she was getting stronger and wanted to be up and about but her body was not quite ready yet for that feat.

Our last Open Farm Day was October 12; it was a lovely fall day with blue skies, sunshine and just a little bite in the air.  I monitored Pearl throughout the day making sure she got her medicines and always had access to hay and water. When all of our visitors had gone Ric and I went out to make sure Pearl had hay and water and to stand her up.  Once we got her standing she seemed pretty stable so Ric suggested we let go of her and see what happened.  So let go we did, and then with shaky, wobbly, ungainly steps Pearl walked.  It wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t for very long but we could tell Pearl was very excited to be able to move around on her own – and you can bet that we were excited too!

As Pearl tired she grew very wobbly and soon she cushed (sat down) again.  We gave her a lot of praise and made sure she had plenty of hay and water to celebrate her major progress with.

From that point on Pearl’s progress has been quite amazing.  To begin with we still had to help her get up, but once we did she would always walk for a several steps before she had to cush again.  Unfortunately the other alpacas didn’t realize that Pearl had a limited time to be up on her feet, curious to see Pearl up and about they often crowded around her and got in her way so Ric and I had to make sure we cleared a path for our special girl.  Out of the way girls, Pearl is coming!

As Pearl’s legs have gained strength she has gone from not being able to get up on her own to being able to get up on her own and move about at will.    The act of cushing from a standing positing was quite challenging for her to begin with, but as her muscles have strengthened and her joints have got used to moving again she is managing to cush much easier.  It is still a little challenging to her but every day it gets a little easier.

Pearl finds her feet

Pearl finds her feet

I think one of Pearl’s biggest joys, once she was up and about, was when she was able to make it to the poop pile instead of having to poop and pee where she lay.  The instinct to poop and pee on the poop pile is very strong in alpacas, and if you are in any doubt about that you would soon have that doubt removed if you saw how hard Pearl worked to get to that poop pile and do what she wanted to do!

Pearl is a little hunched up at the rear and we can see that her legs are still not quite back to normal, but it is only 11 days since she started walking again and given the progress that she has made in that short time we are optimistic that in time she will walk normally again.  It has been nothing short of amazing to see Pearl’s progress every day.

Pearl continues to be her sweet self with the exception of when I treat her legs with my photonic red light.  Then she tells me that she is not a fan of my light touching her legs, something that is much more the behavior of a healthy alpaca.  A good sign.

When Pearl is walking and starts to get tired she makes rapid little hums as though to say “I want to keep walking but I just can’t do it anymore”  I let her cush wherever she is and allow her to rest before moving her back into a pen where we can feed her away from the other alpacas.

In the mornings now Pearl is sometimes up and walking around when we get up.  The leaves are starting to fall from the trees and on Monday morning I got up to find Pearl up and about looking for fallen elm leaves which are an alpaca delicacy.   On Monday evening Pearl even tried to run a little as the rest of the herd ran towards the hay at feeding time.  Pearl now walks over to join her regular feeding group in the morning.  She can’t quite remain standing for the full time they are eating but she tries and she tries hard.  Step by step, moment by moment Pearl gets closer to being “normal” again.

Pearl is still on medication; probiotics once a day and a homeopathic liquid twice a day.  I continue to use the photonic red light on her but am now treating her every other day.  Pearl also still receives her daily bowl of vegetables along with her regular hay and grain, she gets so excited when she sees me coming with her feed, uttering grunting noises and sometimes flicking her tail up in the air.  At times I get the impression that she feels her waitress service is not quite as rapid as she would like it to be!

Pearl enjoys some pumpkin

Pearl enjoys some pumpkin

Throughout her recovery Pearl has showed immense strength, determination and will to live, she never once seemed as if she was going to give up, she just fought and fought and fought.  I believe that strength and will to live have been crucial components of her recovery.  We can do all we can to aid an alpaca’s recovery, but if they decide they don’t want to live all the medicine in the world won’t fix the problem.  Pearl wanted to live, and live she has.

We still have a way to go with Pearl, but I feel we are now on the downward slope and that time will be her best medicine from this point on.

I send many thanks to all those who have prayed and sent healing thoughts to Pearl, those who have emailed or called to check on her progress.  All of those kind and good acts have been very much appreciated and just look at the results they have created!

Rosemary

February 25, 2013

Even alpacas like to have friends

A question was posted recently on one of the online alpaca groups I belong to:

“Do alpacas make friends and if so do they remember those friends if they are separated and meet up again?”

The answer from alpaca owners was a resounding “Yes”.  There were many mentions of alpacas who bonded with other alpacas, some were related others not.  Stories of alpacas recognizing past friends at shows or when they met up at farms were also recounted.

Over the years we have witnessed the strong bonds that alpacas form with each other.  Certainly alpacas recognize their own family groups and seem to have stronger bonds with those alpacas (except for our alpaca Queen, for as far as Queen is concerned once those crias are weaned they are on their own!).    But it is not only family ties that bind alpacas together, they definitely also make friends.

We recently witnessed an example of this when we moved the two boys in our current weaning group, Patton and Leo, over to the Junior Males pen.  Patton and Leo were part of a group that consisted of five boys and seven girls.  Three of the boys Sentry, MacArthur and Espresso were moved over to the Junior Males pen a few months ago, but we decided to keep Leo and Patton back in the weanling pen for a little longer.  Patton was small for his age and we were concerned he would receive too much rough housing attention from the other males.  Leo was a tough boy to wean, at our first attempt he became distraught at being separated from his dam Velvet and tried to break through fences to get to her so we put Leo back with Velvet for a little longer until we felt he was able to better handle the separation.  Over time we could tell that Leo had matured more and was ready to be weaned so he soon joined the other weanlings.  This time Leo handled the separation from Velvet much better.  When Leo started to show too much interest in the weanling females (when he matured he really matured!) we decided that it was time to move him and Patton into the Junior Males pen.

Our process for introducing males to a new group is to create a smaller pen within the pen the males are being moved to.  We then put the new boys plus a couple of mellow boys from the existing group in that pen too.  The smaller group can have nose to nose contact with the other boys and will remain in that pen for a week to two weeks.  Usually by that time the novelty of the new arrivals wears off and when we let everyone get together we typically have very few problems.   We also make that final introduction at feeding time so that there is an additional distraction.

When the time came for Leo and Patton to meet the other junior males all went well.   Soon they were wandering around, checking out their new surroundings and new pen mates.  It was then we noticed something else, that Sentry was almost glued to Patton’s side!  Sentry was so happy to meet his buddy Patton again!

When the weanling boys had all been together prior to weaning they all got along well, but we hadn’t realized how much Sentry liked Patton until we saw them together again.  Sentry would not let the other boys mess with Patton and Patton was pleased to have his buddy by his side, even though Sentry is now considerably bigger than Patton.

Patton with his buddy Sentry

Patton with his buddy Sentry (Sentry is the brown alpaca taking it easy in the background)

Alpacas are most definitely a herd animal, which is why we tell people that you should never have a lone alpaca.  We have been fortunate to witness alpacas in our herd group over a considerable period of time and know that they do form bonds.  When they are with their families or their buddies they are happy, separate them and it definitely causes them some stress.

Sometimes though it is inevitable that those bonds are going to be broken.  Male and female crias that grow up together are not going to be pastured together, alpacas that are sold to other breeders will often be sold without their friends (unless we can work out a great deal with the new owners and we will try and do that when possible) and of course at times an alpaca will pass away leaving a buddy behind.   Any time there is going to be a separation we do our best to manage it well; probiotics to keep the alpacas rumen functioning well and to supply B vitamins to help them handle the stress of separation, Rescue Remedy to help them deal with the loss, over time the alpacas do adjust.   It is sometimes a fine balancing act to keep the herd happy and run a successful alpaca business, but we do our best to respect the alpacas while also keeping our business functioning.  Then of course there are the happy reunions we sometimes see, such as Patton and Sentry or a female who comes back to the farm for a breeding and is happily reunited with her dam or her sister for the duration of her stay.

So yes, alpacas do make friends and do remember those friends – and sometimes those friends can also be humans, but that’s a subject for another time 🙂

Rosemary

January 29, 2013

I can no other answer make but thanks, and thanks, and ever thanks…

Filed under: Adopt A Paca, alpaca, Alpaca Care, Alpacas, Blogroll, Family, General — alpacalady @ 5:10 pm

So said William Shakespeare and so say us!  For recently we received a special package in the mail for one of the alpacas in our Adopt-A-Paca program.

Our sweet yearling alpaca Pearl was recently sponsored by the Reyes family of California.  Pearl’s “adoption” was actually given to the son of the family, Oliver Reyes, by a family friend, Lan Merrill.  Lan confided in me that while young Oliver was the one receiving the gift, it was Oliver’s mother Veronica who would be the most excited.   The Reyes family had visited an alpaca farm in Ojai, California and Veronica had fallen in love with alpacas (and who can blame her!).

Pearl in the snow

Pearl

It was great fun getting to know Lan as we arranged for the sponsorship of Pearl and the delivery of the adoption packet. It was also fun hearing from Veronica once she and her family had received their gift.    They were so thrilled to learn of their newly “adopted” alpaca.  We soon received an email from Veronica saying that she would like to send Pearl a gift of some sort and I suggested that perhaps some alpaca treats would be something Pearl would enjoy.

Veronica, her husband Tim and son Oliver got busy and soon we received Pearl’s gift – just look at all those yummy treats!

Pearl's Treats

These are the treats and card that Pearl received from her Adopt-A-Paca sponsors, the Reyes Family

Along with the treats also came a card for Pearl.  Now Pearl hasn’t mastered reading yet but she did look meaningfully at me when I read her card to her, particularly when I got to the part about watching her figure.

We are now working on getting Pearl to eat the treats from our hands.  Pearl is a little shy and isn’t in the habit of eating out of our hands, but she is starting to eat the treats if we crumble them up and put them in a feed tray.  That is if she can get to them before the other alpacas!

This is just one example of the fun our alpaca sponsors are having with our Adopt-A-Paca program.  Participation is as little or as much as the sponsors wish to do.  They can just enjoy receiving their pen pal letters and other goodies from their sponsored alpaca or they can send letters or gifts to their sponsored alpaca or come and visit their sponsored alpaca.

We are thoroughly enjoying getting to know our sponsors,  the Adopt-A-Paca program is bringing us new members to our Windrush Alpacas family from near and far.  Coraline’s sponsor Betty comes to see “her girl” on most Open Farm Days, Honey’s sponsor Kiyah comes and helps us with chores some weekends (well Kiyah’s mom Mindy ends up doing most of the helping, thank you Mindy!  But Kiyah has great fun collecting farm treasure such as sticks and rocks and is treated to the occasional wheelbarrow ride by Ric), Etta’s sponsor Darlene comes by often for special kisses from Etta. Aida took the picture of her sponsored alpaca Dream to show and tell at school.  Aida’s sister Cara (who is almost 3) decided that her sponsored alpaca Kyleen really wanted to be called Adele.  We can’t let sponsors officially change our alpacas names as they are all registered with the alpaca registry but Cara doesn’t need to know that.

So a big Thank You to all of our Adopt-A-Paca sponsors, we really appreciate your involvement in our program and look forward to learning more about you and helping your sponsored alpacas keep in touch with you.

To the Reyes family – thank you so much for Pearl’s gift, she and her herd mates are most grateful and hope that even though you are many miles away you will one day be able to visit the farm.

For those who also wish to make alpaca treats either for our alpacas or theirs, here is the link to the recipe which we found on the website of Cathy Spalding of Gentle Spirit Behavior and Training for Alpacas and Llamas  http://gentlespiritllamas.com/html/tips/treats.htm

Rosemary

October 25, 2012

Adopt-A-Paca – the motivation behind the program

Aimee

I’m Aimee – Adopt Me!

We recently decided to launch a new “product” at the farm, although perhaps ‘product’ is really not a good word for it.  “Opportunity” may be a word more fitting, as we feel our Adopt-a-Paca program allows people a chance to get a closer glimpse of life with alpacas without having to go to the expense of buying and keeping them.

The Adopt-A-Paca program was Ric’s idea.  Anyone who has been to our Open Farm Days knows that Ric is the main man when it comes to doing the tours of the farm.  Ric is definitely much more of a people person than I am (nothing personal folks, but I just am more comfortable with four leggeds than two leggeds!)  and really enjoys interacting with visitors young and old.  Ric’s 30 years in the Air Force has provided him with confidence in public speaking and his degree in Elementary Education enables him to relate to the many young visitors we get to Open Farm Day.  People love Ric’s farm tours and Ric loves to give them.

So having shown many visitors around the farm, Ric realized that many people would dearly love to own alpacas but are not in a position to do so.  Not everyone lives on acreage suitable for alpacas, and our military visitors know that they are usually stationed here for a few short years and could deploy overseas or get a permanent move in the near future.  Some people know that they don’t have the time to care for alpacas along with their already busy schedules.  There are a variety of reasons why people may not be able to own alpacas, but that doesn’t mean that they may not hope to in future years and it doesn’t stop them longing to own alpacas or wanting to connect with alpacas.  Ric wanted a way to get those people a little closer to living the alpaca dream.

Being “animal mad” at a young age I can relate to those who long to own animals but who don’t get the opportunity to do so.  As a child I loved animals of all shapes and sizes and longed to have a pony or horse of my own.  The only dolls I played with were those that could sit on toy horses.

My parents did their best to cater to my desire to be around animals.  They arranged for riding lessons, drove me to stables to help friends who owned horses and drove me to kennels to volunteer.  They knew that any family vacation would involve either finding a riding stable nearby or organizing trips to visit local horses, cows or any other creature that I decided to bond with on vacation.  My brothers and I grew up with family dogs, cats, goldfish, gerbils and guinea pigs, but my parents did not feel that we could have a horse in our family.

So when Ric suggested the Adopt-a-Paca program it struck a chord with me.  Here was a way we could allow people who fall in love with our alpacas and to get a little bit closer to alpaca life.

To start with we have kept the program very basic.  For $25 people can select one of the alpacas in the Adopt-a-Paca program for a year and in exchange they receive:

  • An Adoption Certificate
  • An 8×10 picture of the selected alpaca
  • A copy of the Alpaca Registry, Inc. (ARI) registration certificate showing the alpaca’s date of birth an lineage
  • Periodic pen pal letters from the alpaca
  • Monthly e-mail newsletters from the farm
  • Maybe even get some neat bonuses during the year… you’ll just have to wait and see!

The sponsorship will last for 12 months at which time you can renew for another year or pick a new alpaca

As the program grows we may make some changes and expand it further, for now we are just “dipping our toes in the water” to gauge the amount of interest.

Of course you don’t get to take the alpaca home and ownership of the alpaca is still ours, but for the year you are in the program you will get a closer look at life with the alpacas and hopefully get to know “your” alpaca better.

What’s in it for us you might ask?  Well your $25 contribution will go toward covering the costs of daily care for your alpaca – it costs more than $25 a year to raise an alpaca, but your contribution will help offset the costs a little.  We also feel we will get to know our farm visitors and fans a bit better.  Perhaps too in these trying economic times your “adopted” alpaca will bring you something to look forward to and put a little joy in your heart as alpacas often do.

We hope you will join in with our “Adopt-A-Paca” program and that together we will have a lot of fun with it – and of course if you would prefer to actually own alpacas we also sell them too!

Rosemary

March 23, 2012

Farewell To A Special Boy

ImageThere is much sadness today on the farm as yesterday we had to say goodbye to one of our alpaca boys –Mags.  Mags started to be unwell on Monday, rallied a little on Tuesday but by Wednesday we knew he was really in trouble.  On Wednesday the vet decided to keep Mags at the clinic administering fluids and pain killers to him while he tried to figure out what was wrong.  By Thursday it was apparent that Mags was suffering greatly and that the treatment the vet was trying was not working,  so with heavy hearts we told the vet to euthanize Mags.  Such hard words to say and for us to accept but so necessary to relieve Mags pain.

Mags life had been a challenge from the day he was born, a large cria he got stuck during the birthing process and the owners of his dam had to get a vet to deliver Mags by C-Section.  Despite his difficult birth Mags came out strong and fighting, sadly though his dam Maggie had sustained damage during the birthing process and died the next day.  Mags owners raised Mags on the bottle and loved him dearly but as time went on it became apparent that Mags was starting to develop behavioral issues, something that can happen with bottle fed alpacas, particularly males.  Mags owners did their best to establish correct boundaries with Mags from day one, but his personality was such that he persisted in bonding more strongly with them than other alpacas.  At that point is when Mags made his first visit to our farm.  He arrived here with another bottle cria Song, who had lost her dam at a slightly later stage than Mags and who would not nurse from a bottle.  We agreed to work with both Mags and Song, trying to instill appropriate behavior in Mags and working with Song to get her to nurse.  Song by this time had decided that Mags was her new mother and milk source and would try to nurse off him, much to Mags surprise!  By holding a bottle underneath Mags we were soon able to get Song to nurse from the bottle,  Mags played an important part in Song’s survival.

In time Mags behavior did improve and he was able to return to his owners, while Song went on to her new home.  But Mags was always an alpaca who had to be handled carefully and with awareness.

Mags owners later decided to leave the alpaca business; as part of our agreement in working with Mags we had become his co-owners and so Mags returned to our farm.  The change of location threw Mags world in a spin for a while and once again we had to work to establish boundaries and encourage good behavior over bad.  By this time Mags was maturing and testosterone was being added into the mix, but our male herd helped us keep Mags in check, educating him in the hierarchy of a male alpaca herd.  Once again he settled down and even started to bond with a couple of the boys, in particular our black herd sire Champ.

Today Champ is wondering where his buddy went.  Champ is a very intelligent alpaca, described by the transporter who delivered him here as one of the smartest alpacas he has met.  I think Mags was on a similar level to Champ and that is why the two boys bonded.

Throughout his life Mags wanted attention and affection, but he sought in from humans instead of other alpacas and not always in the best way.  We certainly did not want to wrestle with him, but in alpaca boys that is often how they play.  We would have loved to give him the attention he sought, but knew that to do so would only encourage his inappropriate behavior and so we were very much hands off with Mags.

In the last few days of his life, as we cared for Mags we were finally able to hug him and give him the attention he had so longingly sought for all of his life.  His eye contact with us was direct, in times of pain he gained some relief and comfort from our touch and our voices, he put his trust in us completely and was so incredibly strong through some difficult days.

It is always hard to decide to let one of the alpacas go, but in Mags case it was even harder, he was fighting so very hard for his life and we wanted to give him every possible chance, but when suffering is great and there is no chance for recovery all we can do is provide merciful relief.   Mags lived up to his registered name until his final moment – Lionheart.

Sometimes  in life we experience meaningful connections, things happen that seem to be guided by a gentle spirit, not seen but often felt.  As I wrote to a dear alpaca breeder friend last night to inform her of Mags passing, Ric had the television on in the other room, through my tears I could hear the words of a song from the The Secret Sisters.  I have never heard of The Secret Sisters before and while I love music I am not familiar with their work.  The song is from the sound track of the movie The Hunger Games, a movie that has not interested me at all and which I would probably not have planned on seeing.  I had not been paying attention to the noise of the TV, but The Secrets Sisters song reached me clearly and perhaps with a purpose.  The song is titled “Tomorrow Will Be Kinder”, the words could not have been more fitting for the emotions we are feeling.

“Black clouds are behind me, I now can see ahead

Often I wonder why I try, hoping for an end,

Sorrow weighs my shoulders down and trouble haunts my mind

But I know the present will not last and tomorrow will be kinder

Tomorrow will be kinder, it’s true I’ve seen it before

A brighter day is coming my way, yes tomorrow will be kinder

Today I have cried a many tear and pain is in my heart

Around me lies a somber scene I don’t know where to start

But I feel warmth on my skin, the stars are all aligned

The wind has blown but now I know

That tomorrow will be kinder

Tomorrow will be kinder, it’s true I’ve seen it before

A brighter day is coming my way, yes tomorrow will be kinder”

The alpaca business is often joyous, but any time you are raising lifestock there will come a time when you have to say goodbye to those in your care.  It is never easy and though we have been raising alpacas for 12 years and have said had to say goodbye to our dear alpacas before it doesn’t get any easier.

The picture at the top of this post is of Mags when he was young during his first stay at our farm, and that is how I will choose to remember him, full of life, curiosity and wanting so much to be loved.  Dear Mags you were a special boy, we really miss you.   I still feel your presence, can still feel your warmth, wherever your spirit soars I am hoping that for you too today and tomorrow will be kinder.

May 18, 2011

The Year of Unexpected Events

Phew!  Life certainly has been busy on the farm.  Time for writing has been scarce even though the desire is there.

I am beginning to think that 2011 should be renamed “The Year of Unexpected Events” – February brought record setting cold temperatures in the midst of a dry winter, March brought a houseful of unexpected guests when Ric surprised me for my birthday by flying in friends and family from across the world (which also solved the mystery of why Ric had taken a sudden interest in tidying and decluttering!), April brought us an unexpected large vet bill when our miniature Australian shepherd dog Blue decided to try and herd our horses and had to have a toe amputated as a result of her escapades (the vet said the horse did a good job of a surgical amputation and he just had to tidy everything up).

Blue tries to play with her cone on

Blue with her bandaged foot and her cone collar

The unexpected events continued in April when a nearby large grass fire propelled by the high winds that have plagued us this spring caused us to evacuate all of the alpacas from the farm.  We were fortunate in that the wind changed direction before the fire reached our property, but with 70 alpacas at the farm we knew an evacuation would take time and so decided to act sooner than later.  How fortunate we are to have many friends and acquaintances who showed up to help with the evacuation without being asked.  Having heard of the fire they made their way to our farm, some with trucks and trailers to help as they could.

Smoke from the Grass Fire April 17 2011

Smoke from the nearby grass fire rolls over our house - photo courtesy of our friend Barb McKenzie

May sees us in one of the worst drought periods in history, one of our hay suppliers has had his total crop of wheat fail and will not have hay for sale this year – a blow to us but an even bigger blow to him as his hay sales are a big part of his livelihood.   Thankfully another of our suppliers was more fortunate and has now delivered us 1450 bales of good looking wheat hay – good fortune has smiled on us again even in tough times.  What a year and we are not even half way through it!

Shearing is now well underway; we still have 25 alpacas left to shear but should be completely finished following another couple of shearing sessions.  Ric shears our alpacas and not being a professional shearer he cannot compete with the 7 minutes per alpaca that some of the professional shearers achieve.  There is something to be said though for our slower pace, our alpacas are calm and relaxed during the process and we can take the time to try and ensure that our fleeces are evenly sheared with few second cuts and gathered without contamination from short fibers from other areas of the alpaca.  We have a team of loyal friends who have shown up time after time to help us with shearing – to Joe, Becca, Kayleen, Keenan, Bethany, Terri L., Terri F., Darlene, Jeff, Don and Barb however can we thank you enough.

Our monthly Open Farm Days have been a great success, people love to come to visit the alpacas and learn about them during Ric’s circular tour of the farm.  We too have enjoyed sharing the farm with the community, it’s so much fun to watch the delight on people’s faces as they get to see or feel an alpaca for the first time.  For all who have come out to the farm on Open Farm Days we heartily thank you and hope you will continue to come out and visit us.  There is always something new going on at the farm and each month we hope to add a little something to make your Open Farm Day experience even better.

Ric Shows Off Roadrunner to our Open Farm Day Visitors

Ric Shows Off Roadrunner to Open Farm Day Visitors

And talking of new – crias will be here soon!  Yes we are watching and waiting for the first new cria to make his or her arrival.  Queen and Rosie are now both overdue, perhaps in part to the fire evacuation and the drought conditions – alpacas can and will put their pregnancies on hold if they feel conditions are not right for their survival or the survival of their cria.  Keeva too is getting close to her delivery date and TeQueely, Willow, Snow, Cinnamon and Gen are not far behind.  That will be quite the group of crias once they arrive – and with the way things have been going this year I would not be surprised if there isn’t something unexpected within the bunch too.  Let’s hope whatever that unexpected is it is something pleasant and delightful!

Hope to be back soon with more of our news – and there is more news to share so keep checking back for more posts and updates!

Rosemary

March 10, 2011

Preparing for Good Company

Filed under: alpaca, alpaca behavior, alpaca behaviour, Alpaca Care, Crias, General, Open Farm Day — alpacalady @ 8:42 am
Dot and Dash

Dot and Dash - where ever one is the other is not far behind

The week has been busy with preparations for  our upcoming Open Farm Day, tumbleweeds to be cleared away (boy do we have a bumper crop already!), paths to be swept clean, new inventory to be added to the store, signs to be made and ideas to be implemented to make the day the best for all who attend.

While all that is going on there is also the day to day running of the farm to manage – after all we would have a bunch of disgruntled alpacas if we didn’t give them their daily pellet ration and hay.  In addition to daily feedings there are other tasks that need to be attended to as well.  With 70 alpacas at our farm toenail trimming is an ongoing process and as my mother would like to say “Is like painting the Forth Bridge” (I am told the American equivalent of that saying is “like painting the Golden Gate Bridge).   By the time we have trimmed the whole herd it’s time to start over again!  Alpaca ears need to be treated to prevent ear ticks, pregnant alpaca girls need to be behavior tested to verify that they still pregnant and body scores need to be checked to decide which alpacas are eating a little too well and which might need a little extra feed every day.  Life is never dull at Windrush Alpacas!

Spring crias are several weeks away from being born, the fall crias are growing up healthy and strong.  Young Dot and Ditto each born during our December Open Farm Days are now strapping 3 month olds, for those who were here when Dot and Ditto were born the change in the two boys will be striking.  Along with their buddy Dash who was born days before them they make quite the trio checking out new things in the pasture and on chilly evenings  they stir the whole herd into a gallop as they perform their nightly “cria dash” to ensure they are nice and warm before night fall.  Inevitably Dash is in the lead of the cria dash, (hence his name Windrush Luna Dash) a very vivid reminder of how his sire Windrush White Blast chased around the pasture as a cria.

Theresa and Ditto

Ditto with his dam Theresa - Ditto was also born during our December Open Farm Days

The forecast for Saturday speaks of temperatures in the 60’s, partly cloudy and a light breeze – just perfect for an Open Farm Day.  We are getting excited about the event and look forward to meeting many new people, seeing repeat visitors (alpacas are addictive you know) and introducing our beautiful alpacas to all who come.  See you soon – it’s going to be a fun day!

Rosemary

January 29, 2010

The View from my window is

Nothing but Ice - The view from our window January 28 2010

Nothing but Ice - The view from our window January 28 2010

Well you can see from this picture that there isn’t really much of a view but rather a sheet of ice.  That’s the scene we woke up to on Thursday morning as a huge snow and ice storm hit our area and much of the Texas Panhandle.

By the time we got up we already had a good layer of ice outside, the wind was blowing and then the snow came, and came and came.  Its’ hard to say exactly how much snow we got as much of it drifted.  In places we have deep drifts but even on the flat areas there are at least 5 inches of snow.

Morning chores was a little challenging mainly because every time you faced north it was actually hard to breathe and see due to the winds and blizzarding snow, but we persevered and made sure that everyone was fed, watered and had some shelter from the storm.  We did have a couple of shivering alpacas, mainly those who had been sitting where the ice could settle on them and the wind blow on them.  Once they got up and moved around though they started to do better.

A treat of some alfalfa on the regular wheat hay helped not only get the alpacas warmed up by fueling their stomachs but was also a helpful tool to entice the girls out of the smaller shelter where they had congregated and into the large shelter where conditions were much nicer.

The girls crowd the small shelter in the snow

The girls crowd the small shelter in the snow

I had to chuckle as we watched the television for the various closings in the area – the other towns had school closings listed and business closings listed but when it came to Clovis the wording was “Clovis – closed”.  I am sure the wording should have been Clovis Schools closed but “Clovis Closed “ pretty much summed things up as the town was pretty much shut down.  The roads were treacherous and the authorities were discouraging anyone from going out on the roads.

This was no small storm, not only in terms of inches of snow but also by the extent of the road closures.  Interstate 40 was closed from Tucumcari, New Mexico to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma a distance of close to 370 miles.

Snow days like Thursday make great days for catching up on tasks around the house and also are a great time for working on fiber arts.  With two projects actively on the go I was able to give time to both of them.

The snow is forecast to stop early Friday morning but it’s going to lurk around longer than that as there is such a large accumulation of it and of course underneath the snow is that thick layer of ice.  It’s going to be a while until we see the ground again I think!

Rosemary

December 8, 2009

Can It Get Any Colder!

The alpaca boys watch the snow

The alpaca boys stay on their warm spots and watch the snow

The last week has seen our weather change from the balmy temperatures of an early New Mexico fall to the bone chilling cold that can occur during late fall and winter.

Part of farming is accepting that you are at the mercy of the elements – you can’t control the weather and have to be prepared to work in whatever weather comes your way.  As the cold arrives the insulated coveralls are brought out of the closet, the alpacas socks become a permanent fixture on our feet, the fleece lined jeans are the dress choice of the day and our snow boots start to prove their worth.  Water bucket heaters are installed and the alpacas and horses are treated to extra hay on those super cold days.

Last Thursday we were initially forecast for a fairly cold dry day, but during the night the cold front that was coming into the area headed just a little further south than the weather man had predicted and by Thursday morning our ground was covered with snow.  Initial predictions of accumulation of an inch soon went out the window as by 9 a.m. two inches were already on the ground.

With the snow starting during the night the alpacas were already bedded down for the evening and having been cushed for a while each one had developed a warm spot where they were sitting.  When the snow started to fall it settled on the top of their fleeces but they were nice and warm – and were not moving!

We're not moving

Cosmo and friends stay out in the weather

Some of the alpacas were in their shelters, Theresa had moved her cria into the shelter and the little one was dry, warm and more than ready to show off her repertoire of bucks and kicks.  Ana Lynnette too had headed inside the shelter with her cria Roadrunner and the pair were contentedly watching the snow fall.

Box Car Alpaca Boys

Homer and Tobiano decided the shelter of the box car was a better place to be

It seems as if that snow fall opened the doors for an arctic blast because since then it has been cold – very cold.  Someone told us that Thursday night was reported as being record cold and since then it has only got colder.    By Monday our night time low was 18 (- 7.7 Celsius) and our daytime high was 26 (-3.3 Celsius)– and that’s without figuring in any wind chill.  But despite the cold the chores still need to be done – the animals fed, the poop piles raked, the dogs walked.  We still opened the store on Saturday and met some lovely (and hardy!) customers who came out to stock up on warm alpaca socks and Christmas gifts for the family.

The good news is that we can take our time getting the chores done and then head into the warmth of the house for some hot tea and warm food.  Then we can get on with some inside tasks and take a few minutes here and there to enjoy watching the alpacas whether they are rooting around in the hay, sitting out chewing their cud or wrestling, pronging and playing in the late afternoon as they start to build up their body heat for the night.

Our temperatures are supposed to warm up starting today, I say supposed to because already the forecast has changed a little and the word snow has now reappeared in the forecast as well as the mention of 60 mph wind – sounds like it’s going to be an interesting day, I don’t think I will be packing away the insulated coveralls, snow boots and alpaca socks anytime soon!

Rosemary

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